Stage 3’s finale caught fire after some daring attacks in the women’s Tour of Watopia Pro-Am. Was it enough to spark a change in the GC?
- Emma Belforth (Team SZ) makes key move on the climb
- Only Mary Wilkinson (Canyon ZCC) and Lou Bates (Race3R) follow
- After holding off the chasing pack, Wilkinson takes victory, adding to overall lead
It was the second of three stages for the women. Riders from Zwift community teams and professional cycling teams are competing in a points-based classification. Each of the racers earn points for their position at the finish and at designated intermediate sprints or climbs. At the end of the stage, racers are ranked based on how many points they claimed.
There’s also a General Classification (GC), which adds together each rider’s points from all three stages. The woman with the most points across Stages One, Three, and Five (men race Stages Two, Four, and Five) will win the Tour of Watopia.
Missed the race? Read the recap and check the results. Full results
Course: Whole Lotta Lava
The women felt the heat on Stage Three of the Tour of Watopia, taking one lap of the Whole Lotta Lava route. This includes a mostly flat section going around and through a volcano, before starting an upward spiral to the top and back down again. The volcano climb itself is 2.3 miles (3.7 kilometers) with a 3.2% average grade, but that’s a little misleading. It never gets very steep, but the slope is typically about 4-5% with a flat section about halfway up. The steepest part is just before the top. After the descent, racers have a couple more kilometers of flat before a pair of very short kickers to the finish line.
The first several minutes of the race were fairly calm as the pack rode around and through the base of the volcano. A couple of strong surges on the kickers shed some racers, but there were still 69 of 84 remaining as they started the climb with 10k to go.
Right when the group hit the hill, Siri Hildonen (Canyon ZCC) rocketed out of the bunch using a Draft Truck PowerUp, but she was brought back before long by the fast-moving peloton. It was a grueling climb. By the time they reached a flat section, riding above lava in the center of the volcano, there were just 18 riders still in the front group.
Emma Belforth (Team SZ) used a Helmet Aero Boost PowerUp to attack at the end of the flat section, grabbing a few seconds while the others weren’t expecting it. When the climb got steeper, Mary Wilkinson (Canyon ZCC) and Lou Bates (Race3R) bridged across. Wilkinson immediately took the lead, and Belforth and Bates stayed close behind.
They had both the finish line and Queen of the Mountain (QOM) points in mind. Both could help their overall position. Near the volcano’s peak, Bates sprinted for points first and came around Wilkinson. But Wilkinson gave a powerful kick and soared past her right at the line. Belforth came across third, but she couldn’t keep up with the other two leaders and dropped from the breakaway.
Not Over Yet
There were still 5 kilometers left to race. There wasn’t much resting on the descent, and Wilkinson’s yellow leader’s jersey spent a lot of time in front as she worked to keep the break away. Belforth was caught partway down the hill by the bunch, but the two leaders were maintaining a gap of about 10 seconds on the group. The chasers had a lot of firepower, including Olivia Baril (Team Turbo) and Cecilia Hansen of (Team Heino), second and third in the General Classification (GC). Pro rider Ella Harris (Canyon//SRAM) also made the selection.
Slowly, the leaders pulled out 15 seconds. Could they make it?
Wilkinson struck! It was the first kicker before the finish line, going into the belly of the volcano. Bates had to chase hard to get back on her wheel, using a Draft Truck PowerUp to hold on once she got there. That’s when Mary went again, before the short ramp to the finish, using a Helmet Aero Boost to ride away from Bates and across the line to victory. Hansen won the bunch sprint behind, followed closely by two of her Heino teammates.
Wilkinson now has a commanding lead over the rest of the field, with one race left. Hansen moves up to second place, and Bates passes Baril to take third by a close margin.
Note: Results are provisional and will be finalized after performance verification takes place.
Individual Points Podium – Stage 3
- Mary Wilkinson (Canyon ZCC) – 45 points
- Olivia Baril (Turbo) – 41 points
- Cecilia Hansen (Heino) – 37 points
- Mary Wilkinson (Canyon ZCC) – 92 points
- Cecilia Hansen (Heino) – 68 points
- Lou Bates (Race3R) – 63 points
- Olivia Baril (Turbo) – 61 points
- Daniela Istrate (Revo) – 57 points
- Louise Houbak (Heino) – 54 points
- Vicki Whitelaw (Heino) – 48 points
- Leah Thorvilson (Turbo) – 47 points
- Kristin Falck (Canyon ZCC) – 43 points
- Emma Belforth (Team SZ) – 39 points
Bates said she expected more people to come with her, Belforth, and Wilkinson when they broke away on the climb.
“Having raced Mary (Wilkinson) IRL (in real life) many years ago, I know how strong she is. So I knew we might be able to distance the others if we stayed on pace through over the top and that worked,” she said. “Mary is just so strong though – she fully deserved the win!”
She said she hoped they could stay away after the climb, but with such a big group on their tail, she wasn’t sure.
“It was worth a try – I don’t like boring bunch sprint finishes so always up for giving things a go!” said Bates.
Hansen said that when she missed the break, she thought her group could work together to catch it before the finish.
“I knew it would be hard going uphill but didn't think it was going to be a break that could hold to the line,” she said.
What about her chances to get to the top step of the podium?
“Huge pile of points up for grabs (in the) last race!” Hansen pointed out, adding, “We’ll see…”
Next Race: Stage 3
Tune in live for the second men’s Tour of Watopia stage on March 20 at noon PDT (7 p.m. BST)!